Every Year, Every Fall…Medicare Drug Plans

by Joanna Smith on Aug 25, 2010

In the California County that I live in, there are 52 separate drug (Part D) plans available to people on Medicare.  I receive frequent calls—especially in the fall, which is open enrollment time for drug plans–about selecting a Medicare drug plan.  Callers are incredulous:  how can there be 52 choices?  How can anyone choose?

Under newly released Medicare rules, the choices (which will be announced at the end of September 2010) for 2011 will be significantly reduced.  Insurance companies have already been notified by Medicare that they will only be able to offer one basic plan (rather than several) and will have to show that other plans are significantly different from each other.  According to today’s Chicago Tribune, more than 3.7 million people may change plans because of plan eliminations.

The advantage of this reduction in the number of plans is that selection will be less confusing for people.  The disadvantage is that co-pays and premiums may be quite different in the new plans, so careful consideration should be given to each plan.

With all of the drug plans, it is important to remember that every year the plan should be reviewed.  Each year insurers may change what drugs they offer in a plan as well as the co-pays and deductibles.  Since consumers can change plan each year from Nov. 15-December 31, they should review their particular plan each fall to see if it is the best one for their needs.

If you need help selecting a drug plan, or know someone who does, you can contact your local HICAP (Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy) Program by searching on the internet for the HICAP office nearest you.  If you know someone who needs assistance with paying for medications, check with www.pparx.org.